Mental health, Parenting

Ugly Truth 30: Today My Son Was Diagnosed

Dear Readers, Today, I fell to tears on my way home from work after a losing sleep battle at 5am, chronic pain, and the challenge of another trying day for my son. Today, Zachary was diagnosed with Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and Oppositional Defiant Disorder. Today, I grieve for my son; for the way things will always be harder for him, for the way he can not yet apply insight toward his behavior, for the friends and caregivers who will misunderstand him and unwittingly make things worse, for the way he covers his ears when noises are too loud, for the way his IQ soars but his social life suffers, for the way I fiercely attempt to guard his self-esteem, for the way I fear I wont be vigilant enough, for those who will and do pressure us into difficult decisions, for the way he severely grapples to regulate his emotions, for the songs he sings that so many will mishear, for the constant redirection of a conformist society, for the way his intelligence will always lend itself to his awareness that he is different. If you don’t believe in these diagnoses, do me a favor and keep your opinion to yourself. I can assure you our pain as a family is very real, but it is not unattended. Zachary has received hundreds of hours of counseling, various therapies, behavior intervention plans, the benefits of countless round table committee meetings by his cheerleaders, and accommodations as his progression and challenges fluctuate. For now, I will have to rest in the years of education and instinct I have invested in. I will have to rest in the competence of the team, physicians, teachers and loving family that surround him. For now, I will have to rest in the knowledge that even when I am imperfect, I am enough. Final Summation: The ability to comfort yourself is invaluable. **If you’re a mental health survivor or mental health provider and want to tell your story – please email me at contact@deskraven.com!** For more excellent insight and entertainment through a collaborative approach to all things mental health, including a guest post from yours truly, visit the Blunt Therapy Blog by Randy Withers, LPC! For additional perspectives on suicide prevention from master level mental health providers visit, 20 Professional Therapists Share Their Thoughts on Suicide! In collaboration with Luis Posso, an Outreach Specialist from DrugRehab.com, Deskraven is now offering guides on depression and suicide prevention to its readers. For more information on understanding the perils of addiction visit, Substance Abuse and Suicide: A Guide to Understanding the Connection and Reducing Risk! In addition, for a comprehensive depression resource guide from their sister project at Columbus Recovery Center visit, Dealing with Depression!
Mental health, Parenting

Ugly Truth 026: Being Different in a Regular World

“A mother need not be perfect, she only need be good enough.”

Dear Readers,

Welcome back to Deskraven, your mental health forum! Today we are talking about the tricky moments of being a meaningful guardian. As we enter into the weekend, let us reconsider our children as individuals rather than lord over them.

In my nearly nine years as a parent, nothing could have prepared me for yesterday morning. There is no rule book for children, but I’d like to think a common sense approach is somewhat universal. Sure, most of us know the basic needs of children: warmth, shelter, proper nutrition, cognitive development, affection, guidance and well fitting shoes – but the mind can seldom conceive of the tough clever quips of our children’s harder inquiries.

I do not support the tabula rasa (blank slate) theory that some Early Childhood Educators adhere to. Likewise, I find it plainly unethical to impose religious views on impressionable young minds. Instead, I believe our children are born with inherent temperaments and tendencies, and it is our job to nurture and direct their self development. For example, you may notice that your first child is naturally stubborn and sensitive while noting that your third child is laid back and inquisitive. Loving them equally, these two children maintain very different social-emotional needs.

My son is named Zachary, and he is seven years old with a temperament much like the stubborn sensitive child described above. My son faces challenges associated with an exceptional IQ and neurological differences. As such, supporting his personal truth while protecting and strengthening his self-esteem has always been my foremost priority.

Zachary has always been an exceptional communicator. In order to gauge his self confidence, I will casually check in with him by saying something like, “Hey buddy, how ya feelin’?” Usually his response is an honest reassurance, or a dilemma he is trying to navigate in school. However, on this day, among my words of affirmation, my sweet insightful son shed light on the fact that he feels loved, valued, and cherished by his family – but less so by the outside world.

In an instant my chest tightened and my eyes filled to the brim with tears as I carefully explained that life often includes a great deal of suffering, and that the magic can be found in the many good things that come along when we always seek to do our best and make good choices as good human beings.

While I countinued to hearten my son, I suddenly found myself overwhelmed and discouraged by the harsh reality of the truth. The truth is you will not find every person that you meet agreeable, and not everyone will think highly of you. Some may even mistreat, abuse or abandon you, but this intolerance is a reflection of personal perception often having nothing to do with the outward circumstances. The task then is to shake it off while keeping your self worth intact.

My boy has always marched to the beat of his own drum. We have battled social norms and school district regulations to give him this right, while also expecting reasonable adaptive skills. As a result he spends a lot of time listening to negative feedback, redirection, and constructive criticism. The fact that he is different poses a challenge, but it is also a brilliant opportunity to teach him the value of self-love, and offer him positive balance at home where the world so often stops short. The fact that he is gifted and talented simply means he learns differently, not that he is better or worse. The fact that I am a compassionate parent serves not only his best interest, but also affords me more patience and grace with my own irksome personality traits. Likewise, my own battle and professional training with all things mental health has uniquely equipped me to advocate for and counsel my son.

As our time together came to a close, I built him up as fast as I could in the time allotted by our morning commute. As we pulled into the carpool lane the right rear passenger door flung open, and he was greeted by a smiling face. I kissed him smack on the lips and poured all of my hope into that one tiny moment, watching closely as he held himself a little straighter. I wiped my tears and took a deep breath while he went on to conduct himself beautifully in his classroom that day. “Raising boys is hard,” I thought to myself.

Perhaps on this day I said something that stuck. Perhaps on this day I was good enough.

**If you’re a mental health survivor or mental health provider and want to tell your story – please email me at contact@deskraven.com!**

For more excellent insight and entertainment through a collaborative approach to all things mental health, including a guest post from yours truly, visit the Blunt Therapy Blog by Randy Withers, LPC! For additional perspectives on suicide prevention from master level mental health providers visit, 20 Professional Therapists Share Their Thoughts on Suicide!

In collaboration with Luis Posso, an Outreach Specialist from DrugRehab.com, Deskraven is now offering guides on depression and suicide prevention to its readers. For more information on understanding the perils of addiction visit, Substance Abuse and Suicide: A Guide to Understanding the Connection and Reducing Risk! In addition, for a comprehensive depression resource guide from their sister project at Columbus Recovery Center visit, Dealing with Depression!

Mental health, Parenting

Ugly Truth 025: ADHD is Tough Stuff

Dear Readers,

I always knew my son would be exceptional, but I never knew his struggles would be so monumental. His first year of preschool was the year his father and I separated, so we were quick to assume his adjustment period was understandable and temporary. Not only did his troubles not pass, they got worse. Much worse.

This type of milestone is usually joyous, however I soon began receiving phone calls from his preschool on a daily basis. I began to take notice that my son’s tantrums were more severe than what would be considered typical for his age group. He would scream, cry, flail his body, stomp his feet, punch his arms, suffer night terrors, display separation anxiety, and throw furniture. Under extreme distress, he would scratch his own arms and face.

As a young (and dumb) mother, I would often absorb the advice of others too quickly. Many people, including our first family therapist, assumed we needed to make some changes and that I needed to be a stronger disciplinarian. In the spirit of always having room to grow as a parent, I can say consistent discipline is definitely part of the equation of treating children with special needs, but it isn’t an end-all solution. As the years passed, I watched him closely as we worked through hands on play therapy, social skill development, emotional regulation practice, and clearer communication. We made dietary changes, reduced screen time, established routines, tried vitamins and supplements, followed through with consequences, held family meetings, sought a second opinion from a licensed counselor, and increased physical activities. We knew for certain that no matter the outcome, we wanted to exhaust every natural resource available to us before ever considering medication. Our son saw a pediatrician, an allergist, a school psychologist, and family therapist and was ultimately referred out for a behavioral health evaluation. We pursued this, but still no answers came.

As our son grew older, he matured out of some of his maladaptive behaviors only to see the emergence of new ones. His primary years were increasingly difficult, often limited by the scope of his teachers and mentors. We worked hard in therapy and had good days here and there, but we just weren’t seeing the progress we were hoping for. His outbursts were growing increasingly worrisome, although his grades never slipped. In general, our son is attention seeking, active, impulsive, sensory seeking, disruptive, emotional, insightful, and extremely intelligent. He shows a lack of restraint but never a lack of remorse, persistent repetition of words or actions, memory loss and mood swings. He generally demonstrates a proclivity toward anger and lacks social skills. He experiences sleep disturbances, appetite changes, aggression (this is very rare these days – thank goodness), low self-worth and has even talked openly of suicide on more than one occasion.

It goes without saying that our love and worry for our son put an enormous strain on our family dynamic. Not only was I faced with the grief of acceptance, but I had the public school system leaning into me one on side, while his father was pushing in the other direction. Suddenly, I found myself with three thorns in my side. I felt stranded in the middle, and I knew the only way I could cope with this would be with some form of healthy detachment. I knew I needed the relief of a slight emotional unhinging in order to face my son’s behavior as objectively as possible, rather than take it personal. I knew I had to a find a way to apply my professional experience as a Behavioral Therapist to my personal life without having a complete and total nervous breakdown. I knew I needed to advocate for my son free from the opinions of others. I’m not going to lie to you and tell you I have been completely successful, because that’s just not true. I can’t tell you how many mistakes I’ve made, or how many nights I’ve cried in my bathroom nauseous with worry. Still, circumstances in which you feel that you have no choice will teach you just what you are capable of. Fortunately for all of us, I was designed to advocate for mental health.

Suspecting Attention Deficit Hyper Activity Disorder (ADHD), and possibly Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), I went to his teachers with a plan. As a mother, I have started every school year by gently approaching, reassuring and thanking my son’s teachers. I do this for three reasons.

1.) I recognize that they have the most important and most underappreciated job in the world.

2.) I realize that my son can be difficult.

and 3.) I want them to know early and often that they can always come to me to voice their thoughts and concerns.

This concerted effort has served us in more ways than I can iterate. Likewise, we have learned the absence of this unified front comes with enormous consequences.

In speaking with his teachers, we soon began to investigate every possible solution without a formal diagnosis. We discussed the problem behavior we were observing, potential triggers, possible areas of change at home and at school, guidance strategies, positive reinforcement, motivation, social skills development, counseling, occupational therapy, accommodations, ARD committee meetings, more therapy, more dietary changes, and more consistency. (I soon learned that despite our best efforts, our nation’s public school system does a great disservice to children with special needs specifically, and all children in general.) Toward the end of his 2nd Grade year, we finally began to see the upswing of all of our hard work.

Our son has grown immensely in the last year, and he deserves the credit. Many of his extreme behaviors have diminished – praise God! However, he still displays some neurological symptoms like facial tics, as well as an inability to self-regulate or integrate socially. This will be addressed at our Doctor’s appointment next week at Moore Mental Health & Behavioral Services where our son will finally be evaluated and diagnosed. We will all be given the opportunity to remain instrumental in mapping out a treatment plan that best suits our family. Naturally, we have all kinds of mixed emotions about this. Still, I feel this is the next step in armoring our little one with all the support he can possibly receive from the vantage point of long over due relief and early intervention in the face of his emotional turmoil.

In the meantime, I would love to hear from parents in similar situations. Do you have concerns for your little ones that extend beyond the realm of typical worry? What is challenging you the most right now? How has ADHD or other sensory disorders impacted your life?

In closing, we must remember that decisions surrounding mental health and our loved ones are never easy. We must remember to pull together through education and support rather than stigmatizing one another through harsh criticism. We must remember there should never be shame attached to seeking help.

You’re not alone.

**If you’re a mental health survivor or mental health provider and want to tell your story – please email me at contact@deskraven.com!**

For more excellent insight and entertainment through a collaborative approach to all things mental health, including a guest post from yours truly, visit the Blunt Therapy Blog by Randy Withers, LPC! For additional perspectives on suicide prevention from master level mental health providers visit, 20 Professional Therapists Share Their Thoughts on Suicide!

In collaboration with Luis Posso, an Outreach Specialist from DrugRehab.com, Deskraven is now offering guides on depression and suicide prevention to its readers. For more information on understanding the perils of addiction visit, Substance Abuse and Suicide: A Guide to Understanding the Connection and Reducing Risk! In addition, for a comprehensive depression resource guide from their sister project at Columbus Recovery Center visit, Dealing with Depression!

Lifestyle, Mental health, Parenting

Ugly Truth 012: Comparison Kills

“I looked through others’ windows On an enchanted earth But out of my own window– solitude and dearth. And yet there is a mystery I cannot understand– That others through my window See an enchanted land.”
Jessie B. Rittenhouse
Good Afternoon and Happy Weekend Readers, Welcome back to Deskraven’s 100 Ugly Truths about mental health! In my last post I talked about the social perceptions, comparisons and partial truths we tell each other. From that sprung an endless well of my own woulda, coulda, shoulda’s – and it wasn’t long before I was feeling guilty. You see, we all want what we don’t have. People with straight hair want curls, people with light skin want tans, people who stay home wish they could work more, and people who work wish they could stay home. It all depends on the needs of yourself and your family dynamic. Many women find their identities in motherhood while others thrive in career environments. Still more, some women – and men – juggle both. Personally, I have always had a heart for being a stay at home mom for many reasons – but I have never been fortunate enough to do it. My first and only son was not planned, nor were the circumstances that soon followed, so I found myself in a young age of adaptation more so than any heartfelt sense of romance or family planning. It got me wondering about how different life might be had I been mature enough to carve the path for myself. There is much research that indicates the value of a stay at home mom. To start, full time stay at home parents offer children a rooted homebase rich in resources. They are free to attend the social-emotional needs of their children, accompany school and sporting events, run last minute errands, make doctor’s appointments and maintain the home while loved ones are away. I find endless value in this! Likewise, the stay at home mom offers balance to a sole provider by running the home and all that it entails. Families with a stay at home parent sometimes make less, but they also spend less in my opinion. Having worked in childcare for ten years, I can tell you that it is grossly expensive and leaves much to be desired depending on your parenting style. Many families find that at least one of their salaries goes almost solely to childcare which easily begs the question, What is the point of that? Children in centers are more resilient and socialized, yes, but they also tend to be more anxious, uncertain, and ill. On the flip side, career mothers offer glowing demonstrations of provision and multi-skilled strength for their children. They teach the importance of education and contribution in a different way, although that lesson may come at an unspoken cost both culturally and personally if not balanced carefully. The sad reality is growing your family well is extremely expensive no matter how you do it, and many women never have the luxury of choice to begin with. That said, our choices, environments, and maternal roles definitely push and pull on our mental health. The decision to have a child is a momentous one, at least it should be. The truth is, I have always dreamed of a big family – but I can not afford one in more way than one. The truth is I worry about my physical, emotional, and psychological capacity – but I can also hear my biological clock ticking as my only son grows closer to eight years old. The truth is I had severe Post-Partum Depression the first go around. The truth is my finances are mine alone and I rely on no one – on purpose – for fear of losing it all again. I put great pressure on myself as a maternal human being and endure the pros and cons of my choices. In my ideal world I would be a full-time stay at home mother and student. This would allow me to nurture my children at my preference while still growing myself. My children would have access to me, the bills would be paid by a supportive partnership, and by the time they reached an age of less need I would be equipped to re-enter the workforce. I deeply envy women cut from this cloth, so I assign value to the things I successfully do manage to demonstrate for my son, as well as give myself grace when I catch myself in a moment of wishful thinking. What many people forget to remember is that the stay at home mom is only a temporary animal, and we must not lose our identities when faced with difficult decisions. What’s more, being a stay at home parent comes with a different type of stress and responsibility, but it is one that allows you to practice self care through labors of love. This is an opportunity the working woman must carve out for herself, meaning it may take a greater toll on her mental health. When reversed however, the stay at home mom may become more susceptible to mental health conditions due to a lack of purposeful exertion, genetics or meaningful socialization. The truth is, working women and stay at home women have different needs, obstacles and priorities – and one may not necessarily be better than the other. All I know for sure is unplanned pregnancy and family planning have entirely two different outcomes, and it breaks my heart. Maybe the most important thing familial relationships can teach us is tolerance, love and forgiveness. The truth is, different doesn’t mean better. Are you a stay at home parent or working parent? What brought you to your decision and how do you feel about it? How has it impacted your mental health? **If you’re a mental health survivor or mental health provider and want to tell your story – please email me at contact@deskraven.com!** For more excellent insight and entertainment through a collaborative approach to all things mental health, including a guest post from yours truly, visit the Blunt Therapy Blog by Randy Withers, LPC! For additional perspectives on suicide prevention from master level mental health providers visit, 20 Professional Therapists Share Their Thoughts on Suicide! In collaboration with Luis Posso, an Outreach Specialist from DrugRehab.com, Deskraven is now offering guides on depression and suicide prevention to its readers. For more information on understanding the perils of addiction visit, Substance Abuse and Suicide: A Guide to Understanding the Connection and Reducing Risk! In addition, for a comprehensive depression resource guide from their sister project at Columbus Recovery Center visit, Dealing with Depression!
Mental health

Ugly Truth 011: A Day in Bed is Invaluable

What a magical thing is the bed, and what a vulnerable, innocent creature is the sleeping human – the human who never looks more truthful or pitiful or benign; the curled-up, childlike dreaming soul who has for a few hours become an angel adrift.” -Michael Leunig Good Afternoon Readers, Saturday is always a shit day. If you’re like me and live with chronic pain while working a typical nine-to-five, then you know your first day off work makes you feel like a trainwreck. This decompression period is what happens after a week of significant exertion and limited resources. My energy levels crash, my joints flare, my sleep suffers, and there is nausea and headaches to boot. The truth is, I am too busy trying to figure out how to do the grocery shopping to grab Starbucks with you. Age discrimination is a very real thing. I cant tell you how many times I’ve been told that I don’t know what pain is because I’m only 29. However, I can tell you that I’ve been so stricken by pain that the inability to move brings me to tears from frustration alone. (If you’re reading this and you’re an ignoramus, please think before you speak.) When people ask me what I’m doing this weekend and I say, “Nothing” they rear backwards in their chair with snarky comments and wrinkled up noses. For some, a day in bed is a day wasted. For me, a day in bed relieves the pain and exhaustion I have no descriptors for. I require at least one day a week with zero obligation if I am to continue successfully. Part of it is legitimate introversion, but most of it is a need for rest significant enough to cope with chronic pain and mental illness. I usually spend Saturday’s crawling around my apartment with poor posture and breathing exercises attempting to glean whatever relief I can from bubble baths, ibuprofen and intermittent stretching sessions. I read somewhere that a diagnosis can come with the cost of the inability to be anything else, hence the ill timed expression, high-functioning. The truth is, a day in bed is not a lazy desire, but a dire necessity when relating mental health maladies to life performance. When was the last time you spent a day in bed? **If you’re a mental health survivor or mental health provider and want to tell your story – please email me at contact@deskraven.com!** For more excellent insight and entertainment through a collaborative approach to all things mental health, including a guest post from yours truly, visit the Blunt Therapy Blog by Randy Withers, LPC! For additional perspectives on suicide prevention from master level mental health providers visit, 20 Professional Therapists Share Their Thoughts on Suicide! In collaboration with Luis Posso, an Outreach Specialist from DrugRehab.com, Deskraven is now offering guides on depression and suicide prevention to its readers. For more information on understanding the perils of addiction visit, Substance Abuse and Suicide: A Guide to Understanding the Connection and Reducing Risk! In addition, for a comprehensive depression resource guide from their sister project at Columbus Recovery Center visit, Dealing with Depression!